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Breastfeeding – When the Most Natural Feeding Becomes Challenging

Breastfeeding babies is the most natural way of feeding. As much as we would like to believe that formula is very close to breast milk and is good enough, the fact that humans survived for thousands of years before formula was invented shows just how effective breastfeeding has been. If you are one of those lucky moms whose breastfeeding is going great, then you are blessed. However, there is another population of mothers who struggle to feed their babies. Some people say that babies don’t latch properly but with some guidance from lactation consultants (in the western world) and experienced grandmothers/mothers (usually in the developed world) and with time, one can succeed in making the latch work. There is another category of mothers who want to breastfeed but struggle because they are not producing enough milk. Every book or website you open will tell you that your body will make enough milk for your baby and that feeding on demand will help your body figure out how much it needs. Trust me, not everyone’s body is actually capable of producing enough milk, let alone excess, to pump and store. I don’t want to write about the benefits of breastfeeding because there is a lot of literature on it but I thought it would help some people if I could share my experience and also some general information about what you can potentially do. can offer to increase milk production.

It is very painful to see your child cry even for an hour. Especially for new mothers, it is not only the physical pain of breastfeeding, but also the pain of not being able to feed a hungry baby. A man can only produce enough milk if he wants to, so that the baby is fed and sleeps. I got over that pain and can totally relate. We had to start feeding our baby formula in addition to breastfeeding from day one because he was jaundiced and really needed food to flush out his system. Once we brought him home, we realized within two days that I wasn’t getting enough and for the next few months I had to face the fact that he would be given his bottles as well. I was so determined to make breastfeeding work for us and didn’t think about ‘what if it doesn’t work out’? We hadn’t bought a pump or bottle, but the day after we brought it home we decided to do it. With limited time to explore the best options, we went for a Philips hand pump which was good to start with. I then took advice from lactation consultants and soon I was on the lookout for information so that I could improve my milk production. At this point, I learned that although you may not be aware, women who have had some type of breast surgery, such as augmentation or reduction or even fibroid removal (for medical reasons), may have problems with fertility. One word you may want to be familiar with is galactagogue. These substances help improve lactation in humans and animals. Based on the experience and information I have gathered, I have compiled the following information that may help you…

1. The pain experienced in the first few days of feeding can be very trying with a baby who is almost constantly hungry. Try not to let it go. One can use what are called nipple shields to reduce the pain. These are usually made of silicone and also help with a good fit. It is also useful for women who have small nipples or vice versa. Stop using a shield when you and your baby are breastfeeding. To increase milk production, you need to continue feeding. Remember that it usually only takes 24 hours of not eating to stop milk production

2. Pump as much as possible. As I said before, the body learns from the baby how much milk it needs. Try to pump when you get a chance. I say that because, there may be times when you have to supplement feeding by giving your baby a bottle. In such cases, pump to empty your breast, so that your body does not think that the baby needs less milk. After the first few weeks, the baby increases the interval between feedings, pumping between feedings. I was told that pumping between 2am and 4am is a good idea because the lactation hormone is at its peak around this time.

3. Try to get a hospital grade pump. Yes it is expensive and I know some don’t like it. However, it actually has options to increase or decrease breastfeeding just like the baby does. If you can’t get one, well, use a mechanical pump.

4. Try to empty both breasts at each feeding.

5. Drink at least two liters of water a day, remember that most breast milk is just water and you won’t get enough unless you are hydrated.

6. Here are some galactagogues that I used and some that I chose not to use because they were too new to me:

one. Fenugreek seeds (called methi in Hindi and ‘vendhayam’ in Tamil) – I had no idea that these would increase milk production and was happy to learn that. It is a very common ingredient in Indian food so I had to try something new while breastfeeding. There is no point in spending money on capsules that are available as supplements in stores, instead, I drank a teaspoon of tea seeds three times a day.

b. Cereals and legumes – oats and barley in particular are said to help increase milk production. I will usually eat oatmeal (with added milk) first thing in the morning and also soak oats in water until done and drink at least one glass of water a day. Mung dal gruel is also said to help. Pressure cook moong dal, add milk and jar, bring to boil and drink

c. Almonds, cashews and macadamias are said to help milk production

d. Garlic – roast some cloves of garlic in the fire or cook minced garlic in the gruel. Add this to warm milk and drink it at least twice a day. They say garlic can thin your blood so don’t use it with anti-coagulants.

is Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties and may help prevent breast infections, which can delay breastfeeding. If you have an Indian diet, chances are you’re already getting enough of this amazing spice, if not the recommended half teaspoon a day.

f. Green papaya is said to be taken throughout Asia as a galactagogue. I haven’t had a chance to try this myself

g. Spirulina, nutritional yeast and brewer’s yeast, gray ale are some others recommended by some but I have not been able to try these.

h. It is also said that spices like dilop, caraway, fenugreek seeds also help in milk production. I used to eat some fenugreek seeds every day.

i am. Green leafy vegetables, carrots, beets and yams are also said to be effective. Also, dudhi (sorakai in Tamil or lauki in Hindi) is said to be effective in increasing milk production. Having plenty of fruits and vegetables will give you the energy and nutrients to make milk.

j. Singing nettle (also called ‘kuppameni’ in Tamil) is another herb that I say people often recommend. I bought dried nettle and drank it as a tea. Just put a teaspoon in a bowl and add boiling water, cover and let it steep for five minutes, drink. It is also rich in iron and is a great plant, although not milky

k. Fenugreek, trumpet leaf, fennel leaf, red mulberry leaf, goat’s sedge, chickweed, alfalfa are some herbs that I haven’t really used because I haven’t seen them before. The general recommendation is that when pregnant or breastfeeding, try to avoid new ingredients because you don’t know how your body will react. However, I believe these herbs are more common in Europe and there are a number of women who seem to be reporting success with these online.

l. Herbal teas – there are a number of ready-made preparations available in the market. These are usually tea bags that contain a number of herbs that are usually mentioned on the label. I used a Yogi tea and it was supposed to increase breast milk production. In addition to bees, it also contained bees. Generally they say that the concentration of herbs in teas is too small to cause any side effects, but it depends on the individual. I chose safety over regret

m. In ayurveda, shatavari and ashwagandha are two herbs recommended for breast milk besides some other ingredients like almond etc. I had a capsule called Lactare, available from pharmacies in India, one capsule a day. Doctors in India recommend that it is most effective if started soon after birth but I only started taking it later. Shatavari also appears to be available as a supplement in health food stores. Since the day my second baby was born I have had a chance to have shatavari, which is available in powder form from ayurvedic stores and even online and I have found it to be very effective. I think taking the herb in powder form was more effective than the capsule.

n. I also used to buy Mother’s Socks for mothers and nursing mothers. The reason I took it is because it has, in addition to fortified vitamins and malted corn, I read, helps with milk production.

o. It is also said that good fats such as butter and oil are important for breastfeeding mothers. Some recommend coconut oil and coconut milk.

7. Eating protein is important for milk production. Increase the amount of eggs, meat, legumes, beans and vegetables you eat. Instead of simple carbs, have plenty of complex carbs like whole grains. The former include brown rice, whole wheat, etc. Maintaining a good diet is important at all times, especially while breastfeeding.

8. Get some rest – if you are lucky enough to get some help, try to get it so you can get some rest. You have to accept that some meals will be bottle fed and you can feed your partner or grandparents the bottle while you take a break. A well-fed and well-rested mother produces more milk

I tried to list as many options as possible. You may have noticed that I tried not just one but many of these in parallel. I was also given a prescription for domperidone but chose not to use it due to fear of side effects. In contrast, most of the other herbal galactagogues mentioned were familiar to me and I chose to use them. It may take a while before you accept that your baby just can’t breastfeed but that’s okay. Try your best to eat as much as possible and when you cook very little, just think of it as a preventative medicine because even a little milk has anti-bodies that keep your gut healthy and strong. Try to make the most of the growth spurt as it is their way of telling your body to make more milk. It can be very difficult, but at least pump more during these times. Since a typical Indian diet usually includes most of the aforementioned cookies, grains, spices, and nuts, I embraced them. If you have chosen to try other herbs listed, try a new herb at a time to be sure to see if you suffer from any side effects. Appreciate you putting so much effort into feeding your baby and I wish you the best!

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